"A hug in a bowl." Blake and I decided the other morning as we were enjoying this oatmeal together.
Oatmeal seems an appropriate first recipe for my refreshed blog as it makes up a big staple in my life and having a warm breakfast is the first step many people take (and that I recommend) for those new to Ayurveda. I've had more people than I can remember report how when they started mindfully eating a simple oatmeal or other warm grain for breakfast, their whole day took on a more grounded energy.
According to Ayurveda, Oats are heavy and balance vata & pitta and increase kapha when cooked. When dry it's the same except they increase vata. It's worth mentioning that I've heard of people with pitta-type digestion who have experienced acid reflux after eating oatmeal. For those individuals, a cooked rice cereal would be a better choice. Oats are rich in soluble fiber and a wonderful support for those who experience vata-type constipation, especially when paired with ghee. John Douillard breaks down fiber types in this great article.
What makes this "Super Energy" oatmeal? While a regular bowl of oatmeal can support stable energy levels, the addition of two Ayurvedic medicinal herbs in addition to a little flax & chia are what gives it super charged energy.
Shatavari and Ashwagandha are the two most revered herbs (roots technically) for improving reproductive health. They're a bit yin and yang actually, if you don't mind me mixing my eastern medicines; shatavari is most recommended for women and ashwagandha for men. Both are nourishing but shatavari is cooling whereas ashwagandha is warming. Wondering what their names mean? Shatavari means "who posesses a hundred husbands" (how's that for a reproductive rejuvenation endorsement?) and Ashwagandha means that which has the smell of a horse. Shatavari has a pleasing, somewhat sweet & bitter taste. Ashwagandha, like the name indicates, tastes fairly terrible, hence the smaller dosage in the oatmeal.
Shatavari and Ashwagandha are adaptogenic herbs, which means the strength of the effect is determined by what the body actually needs. Adaptogens could be considered the smartest herbs around. Remember I wrote that they are roots? Well, it's important to take that into consideration. Roots, just like root vegetables, are heavier to digest than twigs and leaves. Because of this, it's wise to always have your Shatavari or Ashwagandha with a little "digestive". In this case, we use cinnamon as a delicious digestive, but cardamom would work well too in this dish.
These herbs are used as medicine and so that means there are some people who they are not recommended for. Shatavari is contraindicated for: high Ama (toxicity), excessive mucus, and women with masses in their breasts as Shatavari contains phyto-estrogens. Ashwagandha is not recommended in cases with high Ama or severe congestion.
Shatavari & Ashwagandha are sold at Rainbow Grocery in sf and can be found online at Banyanbotanicals.com.
Chia and Flax seeds are more common oatmeal additions: both are warming and nourishing. Dr. Vasant Lad says calls flax seeds a "nutritive tonic". They are heating (decreasing vata, increasing pitta, and having little effect on kapha) and have laxative & demulcent (moistening) effects.
Chia seeds are sweet in post-digestive effect, unlike flax which are pungent. Chia reduce both vata and kapha and increase pitta. Lad says chia is an expectorant (promotes respiratory secretions, often used for coughs), demulcent, and diaphoretic (promotes sweating). Most people would need to eat a lot of flax or chia to notice these effects, and in the dosage in the oatmeal the effect is very mild.
Dates and sunflower seeds make the oats even more delicious. Dates are heavy, cooling, aphrodisiac, and energizing; they're superb for balancing vata and pitta. Sunflower seeds are oily and light and balance all doshas.
I topped each bowl of oatmeal with a little bit of homemade ghee. Ghee is often used as an anupana, or carrier for herbs. Ghee has a special affinity for Majja or tissue of the nervous system, which makes it a nice pairing with the nervous system rejuvenating herbs.
This recipe is very forgiving, so if you're missing an ingredient or two (like the herbs) it will still be delicious & satisfying. I hope you enjoy this "hug in a bowl" and that it gives you the energy to be focused and grounded through to your lunchtime meal.
SUPER ENERGY OATMEAL
1/2 c rolled oats
1 1/2 c water
2 dashes sea salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp shatavari powder
1/4 tsp ashwagandha powder
1/4 tsp flax seeds (omit if you have loose stools, double if you are constipated)
1/4 tsp chia seeds
2 medjool dates, pitted & chopped
2 tsp ghee
2 Tbs sunflower seeds
Combine oats, water, salt, cinnamon, shatavari, ashwagandha, flax, and chia in a medium pot. Bring to a low boil and stir every two minutes. While oats cook, lightly toast sunflower seeds either in a pan on the stove or in an oven; be careful they burn very easily! Once oats are soft, add dates and stir then turn off heat. Serve in two bowls, topping each bowl with a little ghee, a sprinkle of sunflower seeds, and just a touch of maple syrup.
- Balance Vata: Perfect! Don't forget the ghee on top. You can add 1/4 tsp dry ginger as well.
- Balance Pitta: Great! If you're very sensitive, have less cinnamon.
- Balance Kapha: Ok. Great if made with quinoa instead of oats, increase ashwagandha to 1/2 tsp, and omit shatavari altogether.
Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing by Dr. Vasant Lad and Usha Lad
Ayurveda: Life Health & Longevity by Dr. Robert Svoboda
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